Nearly 100 homes made safer in Kinston by Red Cross

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Kinston, Feb. 12, 2018 — Nearly 100 families in the Sand Hill area are safer because of a partnership between the American Red Cross and the Sand Hill Volunteer Fire Department to install smoke alarms in local homes.

Every day in the U.S., seven people lose their lives to a home fire, most often children and senior adults. The Sand Hill community knows this too well as they recently lost a resident to a tragic home fire.  As a result, Sand Hill Fire Chief David Jones, and local resident, Charlie Broadway, a Red Cross volunteer, wanted to make homes in their community safer by joining together to install smoke alarms in homes.

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Sand Hill Fire Chief David Jones (left), and Red Cross volunteer Charlie Broadway.

Jones and Broadway planned to take advantage of the Red Cross nationwide Home Fires Campaign to save lives and help in the local area.  After coordination and planning, the idea became a reality and on Feb. 10, 40 volunteers gathered for a day-long smoke alarm installation in the area.

The group included Red Cross volunteers from Onslow, Craven, Lenoir and Wayne Counties; Marines from Camp Lejeune and the Air Station; and local firefighters from the Sand Hill Volunteer Fire Department.

After being trained day-of, the volunteers divided into 11 small teams equipped with ladders, drills, and smoke alarms, and went into their assigned areas of the community to install alarms.

One resident, Curtis Moore, had smoke alarms, but they were old and did not work. He was most appreciative of the new installs and said, “I can’t believe there is no cost to me for this service. I am so thankful.”

By early afternoon, the teams installed 200 smoke alarms in 98 homes. Follow up information was left on the doors of residents who were not home.

Fire experts agree that people may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it’s too late to get out.  Every household should create a fire escape plan and practice it until everyone can escape in less than two minutes.

For additional information or steps on how to protect your family, contact your local Red Cross or go to


The Red Cross provides free smoke alarm installations. To request a free alarm, call your local Red Cross office, or visit and fill out a request form.

Story and photos by Char Rodriguez / American Red Cross


A candle changes the lives of a Durham family

pexels-photo-373988.jpegCottis Dickens, of Durham, spent her Tuesday afternoon just as any other – stopping by the grocery store, then to the bus stop to pick up her granddaughter.

But on this particular Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, the 78-year-old didn’t realize she’d forgotten to take her granddaughter to a scheduled appointment until they pulled into the driveway of their home.

“When she got out of the car she told me I forgot to take her to the dentist,” Cottis said. “I sure did. She was just going to be fitted for retainers because she had just lost them.”

The two brushed it off and planned to reschedule. Cottis unloaded groceries from the car, and her granddaughter went inside to drop off her things and visit with her grandpa.

Moments later, Cottis said her granddaughter bolted out of the house and said, “the house is on fire!”

The second-floor bedroom filled with smoke and flames, Cottis said. The fire started from a lit candle in a glass jar. She points out, the bedroom was directly above the living room where her husband happened to be sitting at the time.

“If I wouldn’t have forgotten to take her to the dentist, you see what could’ve happened…” Cottis trailed off.

But Cottis and her family weren’t alone during this disaster.

“I’ve never been in a position where I’ve had to use the Red Cross,” she said. “But when I turned around, there they were. They were standing there [at my home]. They were very kind and polite and they told me they were there to help our family in any way they could.”

Cottis said Red Cross provided her family with direct financial assistance to help purchase a hotel room, food and other emergency needs, and gave her family comfort kits filled with hygiene necessities. In the days following the fire, they also checked in with the family to make sure they were doing ok.

“They were there when I needed them and I really do appreciate it,” Cottis said.

Cottis and her family will be out of their home for an estimated three months while repairs are made.

To others who may find themselves in a similar situation, Cottis offers this advice: “Be calm. You will get help. And you will get help from Red Cross.”

For information about home fire safety, visit